Today in OpenGov: Russian corruption protests, the importance of visitor logs, and more
In today's edition, we follow protests against official corruption in Russia, argue for the disclosure of visitor logs at the White House and Mar-a-Lago, ask for more contract disclosure, and more…
Around the world
- Journalists, opposition leader held in wake of anti-corruption protests in Russia. Hundreds of people — including opposition leader Alexei Navalny — were arrested in Russia over the weekend as protests erupted over allegations of corruption involving Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. (The Hill) "Sunday’s rallies appeared to be the largest since 2012, when tens of thousands came out against the Kremlin over allegations of widespread vote fraud." (Bloomberg) An American journalist covering the protests for The Guardian were apparently among those arrested on Sunday. (Twitter) The EU and U.S. State Department condemned the arrests and called on Russia to release detained protesters (POLITICO, The Hill).
- Korean prosecutors seek to detain ousted President Park. On Monday, "South Korean prosecutors sought to arrest former President Park Geun-hye over allegations that she abused her powers and colluded with her longtime friend and former aides to get bribes from the nation’s top businesses." (Bloomberg)
- Portugal takes participatory budgeting nation-wide. Portugal has announced the world’s first participatory budget on a national scale. The project will let people submit ideas for what the government should spend its money on, and then vote on which ideas are adopted.(apolitical.co via Nathanial Heller)
- Sunlight supports the MAR-A-LAGO Act, visitor log transparency. On Friday, "Sunlight announced its support for the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act. This bill would require the White House to publish the visitor logs that are collected by the Secret Service when members of the public are vetted to enter 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." (Sunlight Foundation) The bill has currently attracted only Democratic co-sponsors (The Hill), but as Sunlight's Alex Howard noted disclosure of White House visitor logs has been a bipartisan issue since the Obama era.
- Trump could end FOIA fights, will probably support precedent instead. "President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is fighting against Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits seeking politically-charged Obama-era documents like those linked to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s scandals." Trump could move to end existing secrecy, but he probably won't according to a number of transparency advocates including Sunlight's Alex Howard, who explained that "An administration, even in a change of party, inherits legal positions…It’s not uncommon for it to remain consistent." (The Daily Caller)
- Watchdogs urge Ivanka Trump to take on official position to avoid ethics issues. "A group of government watchdogs says the White House must give President Trump’s daughter Ivanka an official title or risk conflicts of interest with her business ventures." (The Hill)
Elsewhere in Washington
- Bipartisan group urges reappointment of Obama-era Special Counsel. Last week, "Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., a longtime whistleblower advocate who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.," chairs of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGhan II urging him to reappoint Carolyn Lerner as head of the Office of Special Counsel. "The senators credited Lerner’s office with saving more than $200 million taxpayer dollars that otherwise would have been lost to fraud or mismanagement, and noted that the Judiciary Committee last year had approved her renomination." (Government Executive)
- Legislation would provide needed contract transparency. "Last week, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced the “Contractor Accountability and Transparency Act of 2017” (S. 651)," the bill is supported by Sunlight, the Project on Government Oversight, and seven "other bipartisan groups…". It will "expand the contracting information available on USASpending.gov (which now only offers summaries of contracts), make the contract information more accessible and readable, and help reduce Freedom of Information Act backlogs." (Project on Government Oversight)
- Sunlight and friends talk data on Federal News Radio. Tune in to hear Alex Howard's thoughts on the multiple meanings of accessibility, Hudson Hollister on data transparency & Robert Dolan on data visualization. We hope you'll download, comment and share.. (Federal News Radio)
- Kushner tapped to lead Trump innovation office. The new White House office will work with private sector partners, including "Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff" and is "expected to pull ideas from the business world and may consider privatizing some government functions." (The Hill)
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